It wasn't, by now, supposed to be this way. Fifteen seasons into the Major League Soccer experience, the hope was that the United States would be able to field a team of player who ply their trade in this nation, sprinkled with a few stars who play overseas (or south of the border).
And yet, today when U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley announced his roster, the domestic league added only Edson Buddle of Los Angeles, Robbie Findley of Salt Lake, Jonathan Bornstein of Chivas USA (also Los Angeles and Landon Donovan, also Los Angeles.
That's fewer than the 2006 roster. In fact, it's half the number MLS put on the national team final roster in 2006.
The net worth to the team of these four is pretty high, though that's mostly down to Donovan, upon whom the success or failure in this World Cup this team largely relies. but in 2006, the national team started at least four MLSers every time out. This time they will likely start one (though, of course, who knows what they'll do at left back, and, frankly, I'm projecting my belief that they only have one starting quality striker on the roster).
Those looking for signs of MLS success can rightly point out that most of the foreign-based based player spent at least some time in MLS (does DeMerit count in that group? Or is Chicago Fire Reserve squad not quite close enough?). Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, after all, haven't even been gone very long.
In any case, the fact that MLS is able to provide the National team the quality of Donovan covers a lot of ills.
Overall, it's good news for U.S. team fans. To have players with clubs like A.C. Milan and, well, Everton, Rangers, Aston Villa, is a plus.
But it is disturbing news in a business sense for MLS, because what it shows is that as Americans reach higher levels of play, they head overseas. And that paints MLS as a feeder league. And MLS never had any intention of being a feeder league.
The argument during the conception years was that Americans demand top level teams, and wouldn't settle for anything less in a national league.
Even the name, Major League, says that. What kind of a Soccer league does the U.S. have? A Major one.
I chatted with Peter Vermes recently, the coach of the Wizards, and he made a point of noting that the U.S. player pool is much deeper than in years past, and that the quality of players, overall, in MLS is increasing, even as the league expands.
But, he had concerns about an inability to retain so many up and coming players. As the league grows, those are the potential marquee names upon which a league hangs its hat.
And, while this World Cup roster is hardly a disaster, it should be a sign that, a better effort to retain the next crop of players might be called for. If not, four years from now, will we be looking at two MLS players?